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South America, Peru, Andes, Yanauccha and Huaytapayana Ranges

Andes, Peru, Yanauccha and Huaytapayana Ranges. Richard Kimball, my wife, Alice, and I spent the second week of August, 1953, climbing and exploring the Yanauccha and Huaytapayana ranges of central Peru. We drove our equipment and food to Huancayo on the main Andean road, then headed east a dozen miles or so on a back road to the Acopalca hacienda. Here the manager, Sr. Chaparro, supplied us with horses, packers, cheese, fresh meat, and some information. Although he told us of the ascent of the Nevado de Lasontai ten days earlier, he did not know much about the mountain country behind the front Lasontai and Huaytapayana ranges. Even the naming of the front peaks was confused; only Lasontai and Huaytapayana are definite. These ranges guard a heavily glaciated, rugged area about 30 miles wide from northwest to southeast and of undetermined length.

With horses and packers we crossed a high pass just northwest of Huaytapayana Peak to an enormous bowl valley enclosed by a solid rampart of unclimbed and unnamed peaks. Wet set up our base camp by two tiny ponds perched above a large moraine-dammed lake, which our Indian packers called Yanaucccha (black lamb). They also gave the same name to the 18,300-foot peak above it, but knew no other names here. They said there was a similar bowl valley to the east, mentioning Chuoc and Huaracayo as names of the two big mountains above it.

During our week of climbing we made a dozen ascents. Of these, five were rock peaks which ranged in altitude from 17,000 to 17,500 feet. None of these was technically difficult. The rest of the climbs were primarily on snow and ice. The 18,300-foot Nevado de Yanauccha was the highest and most interesting mountain ascended. We followed the heavily corniced southeast ridge along the backbone of the Yanauccha range. From the eastern end of this range we saw and mapped the seven peaks of the adjacent Huaracayos, giving the names Chuoc and Huaracayos to the two finest, each about 18,200 feet high, precipitous, and of mixed rock and ice. This small group would well repay a climber’s efforts to get to it. And beyond the Huaracayos are ranks and ranks of other fine peaks.

Our technically most exacting climb was the southwest ridge of Lasontai. We tried the peak from the Yanauccha-Lake side, hoping to make a different route to the top from Ghiglione’s northwest side from Lasontai Lake. In threatening weather, typical in the heart of the range at this season, we ascended the ridge with some difficulties to 18,600 feet, about 400 feet from the summit, where a complete transverse break in the ridge stopped us. We were unable to cross it on the western side, as we had hoped. After a week of intense activity our venture came to an abrupt end and with the return of the packers the long jog back to Acopalca began. In only a week we made nine or ten new ascents (several of the Huaytapayana peaks we climbed had probably been climbed by Arnold Heim in 1946).

Frederick L. Dunn